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Operation C (Game Boy) artwork

Operation C (Game Boy) review

"Contra: Soft Corps"

Operation C (Game Boy) image

A part of me pities the portable Contra installment, Operation C. The game features just enough of the franchise's hallmarks to qualify as a decent entry in the beloved series. Its side-scrolling stages move with impressive ease, allowing the game to maintain a solid pace. Power-ups return from the previous titles, along with familiar foes, easing acclimation for old school players. Konami even utilized sprites similar to those found in the NES titles. And yet, despite possessing the look and feel of a proper Contra title, Operation C is far from memorable.

Its campaign launches you into a misty opening stage, with a grand cityscape looming on the horizon. Individual particles of fog float about the scene, providing impressive atmosphere on hardware mostly known to lack it. Unarmed weaklings jog toward you at arbitrary points. Now and then, you also might run afoul of a slow turret or a machine-gunner who is stingy with his ammo. None of these foes should survive long against nearly any player, including relative newcomers. Heck, even the multi-part submarine that serves as the area boss doesn't pose much of a threat. The dearth of a challenge factor is welcome in this early stage, though, since it grants you enough space to fiddle with the game's mechanics. Acclimation is a snap, but getting used to playing Contra on the Game Boy's minuscule screen might still require a few minutes.

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image

Two levels later, you land in a jungle covered in lush foliage. A full rain forest is visible in the background, when your view isn't blocked by a rocky cliff that you must scale. Given the smoldering heat, you might expect Konami to step up its game and start killing players more efficiently. Unfortunately, though, Operation C's third trial merely repeats level one's basic challenges. The difference is that now it also includes a pathetic mid-boss, destructible (and easily dodged) boulders and slightly faster foes. The ordeal finally concludes with a somewhat tough boss encounter whose pattern is child's play. Though it's a reasonably solid stage, it just doesn't leave much of an impression. Where's the thrill? Where's the fast-paced action, the swarms of enemies, the frantic shooting and the close shaves I've come to associate with the Contra brand?

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image

But Operation C also makes some unpleasant changes. It offers two top-down segments, a la Commando, both packed with all the action you can handle. The trade-off is that you must say goodbye to the game's more traditional mechanics. Targets are plentiful in these outings, plus the game employs fresh hazards to avoid, not to mention multiple mid-bosses. Alas, your movement speed is inadequate when dealing with these woes, especially during the fourth stage. There, you confront the aliens who creep from the walls and tear their way free of egg sacs. If you've got the flame rifle, most of these critters won't be a problem. Dealing with them using a standard shot, however, is practically suicide. They tend to swarm you and fire projectiles, just to make movement even more frustrating. At the end of the level, your troubles are rewarded with a face-breaking boss encounter against a multi-legged monster, complete with roaming fireballs and a speedy laser that bounces off the walls.

The worst moment, however, comes when you reach a series of bone-like protrusions that thrust outward from the wall during the fourth stage. In particular, there are a few such traps leading up the area boss that are positioned directly across from each other. You can get around one of them easily enough, but thanks to your plodding pace, your chances of sidestepping the second one are slim. If you're lucky, you might lose only a single life during such segments.

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image

Operation C manages to redeem itself with a crushing final act, however. You finally feel like you're playing a Contra title, with the correct difficulty setting, and it only took four stages to get there. Imagine the third level, but excise the falling rocks and toss in spider-like aliens reminiscent of the facehuggers from Ridley Scott's and James Cameron's films. There are even a couple of elevator sections where you have to blast marching soldiers and the aforementioned extraterrestrials, all while ducking beneath bolts of electricity. The gauntlet culminates in a super-tough final boss fight that breaks from Contra tradition. As a result, he's ironically one of the more forgettable series antagonists, but the altercation is still worthy and engaging.

I wish I could urge you to track down a copy of Operation C. It's a middling installment to a once magnificent franchise, but it's not without entertaining moments. The game just doesn't compare favorably to most of the rest of the series. It features no standout scenes, no memorable clashes, and it takes too long to finally become the run 'n gun experience it should have been from the start. You won't likely regret playing through Operation C, but you aren't especially likely to remember much about the experience, either.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 07, 2016)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Masters posted February 15, 2019:

This is pretty much an ideal review for this game, well done. I'm on a Contra kick right now, thanks in part to the Captain, so I hunted Operation C down on HG to see if it had a review, and happily found this one.

Incidentally, the way you described the top-down levels 2 and 4, suggested to me that you haven't played Super C. Is that true? That game eschewed Contra's behind-the-back levels for vertical shooting fare that Operation C obviously decided to continue with.

It's an unpopular opinion, I'm sure, but I actually prefer the top-down to the behind-the-back, even though Contra is a better game (last time I checked) than Super C. (And no, the crappy, rotating top-down levels from Contra III don't count.)
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JoeTheDestroyer posted February 17, 2019:

Yeah, I played Super C way back, but I don't remember almost any of it. I think that's one of the few games from the old days that I haven't attempted to play again. I liked it quite a bit back then, but I don't know that I'll bother playing it any time soon.

What I've wanted to do is replay Contra: Legacy of War so I can review that again, despite knowing full well that it's an awful game.

Thanks for reading!
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Masters posted February 19, 2019:

I ran through Super C two nights ago. Operation C is JUST like it. (I guess it makes sense given the names.) If they were going for a portable version of Super C, I'd say they succeeded, but... Super C doesn't hold up that well in the first place, and that surprised me, because Contra absolutely does.

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